While the world was abuzz last week about Nike’s 30th anniversary #Just Do It! advertising campaign and commercial featuring a voiceover by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick—which I discussed in last week’s blogpost—there was another development that we need to keep our eyes on: the announcement by WarnerMedia that it was adopting a company-wide policy to increase diversity both in front of and behind the camera. The initiative, which was established in partnership with actor Michael B. Jordan and his production company Outlier Society, will apply to all of the Hollywood giant’s forth-coming productions, beginning with Jordan’s “Just Mercy.”
This new frontline of our nation’s Culture War is called an “Inclusion Rider.” The term was first coined by Dr. Stacy Smith, the director of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, and brought to the general public’s attention by Frances McDormand during her 2018 Oscar acceptance speech for Best Actress. Within days of McDormand’s speech, Jordan was the first actor to announce that his company Outlier Society would have an “Inclusion Rider” in all of its contracts.
The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative was launched to end “Hollywood’s epidemic of invisibility.” Researchers found that “of the 100 top-grossing films of 2016, 47 did not feature a single Black woman or girl speaking on screen; 66 movies were devoid of Asian female characters, and a full 72 films also erased Latinas. Very few females from the LGBT community, native and indigenous females, Middle Eastern females, or female characters with disabilities are seen in our cinematic stories.” Given the ever-changing demographics of the country, these statistics feel both negligent and felonious.
I am energized by this “Inclusion Rider” effort and the pioneering stand Michael B. Jordan has taken. I will be curious to see how this policy is implemented, not only for his film, but across WarnerMedia properties, which include HBO and Turner. The “Inclusion Rider” has the potential to create a seismic shift in Hollywood. Imagine what our film and television screens would look like if more actors and actresses with financial power and influence decided to add this potent rider to their contracts. Who will be the next actor to step up to the plate? And will this push for equity and inclusion spread from entertainment to the arts—theater, dance and our bulwark cultural institutions?